Art: Preparing for Abstraction

In New York, the first of a Kandinsky trilogy

The Russian artist Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944) casts a long shadow over modern art. His career took him to most of its centers: Munich before World War I, Russia, and next a long sojourn at the Bauhaus in Germany during the 1920s, then a last expatriation to Paris after the rise of Hitler. If ever a painter carried his culture in one portable labyrinth on his back, as if he were a rambling snail, it was Kandinsky. And while he did not invent abstract art on his...

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